I received quite a jolt Saturday afternoon. I was out mowing my lawn and didn't hear my cell phone ring in time to catch the call. I figured if it was important the caller would leave a message. I finished up mowing my lawn, put the mower away, swept off the patio and sidewalk and went inside to check.
Sure enough there was a message. It said the caller was Bruce McDonald. Bruce of course has been working with me on the T-birds broadcasts for the past 11 years. He's been doing the home broadcasts for longer then that and has been associated with the Thunderbirds organization in some fashion since he was a young boy. I figured he probably wanted to catch up since we hadn't spoken since the end of the season, maybe get my thoughts on how the WHL and NHL playoffs were going or even talk a little Mariners baseball or Sounder soccer.
So I went into my voice mail, except it wasn't Bruce's voice on the message. It was his mom, Char. She wanted me to call, it was urgent. Bruce was in the hospital. I knew from the tone of her voice this wasn't going to be good news. I knew from his last Facebook post that Bruce wasn't feeling well lately. I was almost afraid to make the call. But I dialed her up. And the news was not good. Bruce had been diagnosed with leukemia.
What a jolt to hear that. I could only imagine the shock it was for him.
My first thought was, why do all the good guys get the bad breaks. And Bruce truly is one of the good guys. He goes out of his way or above and beyond to make everyone feel the best about themselves. He remembers my kids at Christmas and always inquires about my family's well being. He tries to meet the parents of each player when they come to town so he can tell them what a great job they've done raising their son.
If you know Bruce then you know his cerebral palsy has him confined to a wheelchair or motorized scooter. You wouldn't begrudge him every right to be angry at the world. But he's not. You want to know something funny? Every season we drive down I-5 and back together to Portland, six times, for T-birds/Winterhawks games and Bruce always does the driving. Think about that, the first time I met him I see this guy in a motorized chair and he wants to know if I want to ride down to Portland with him and his mom for the game. I'm thinking to myself, do I sit on the hand rest or his lap? But after five minutes talking with him I had no qualms. And then after seeing his van I felt even better. Of couse after that first game down, there was a catch, I had to the driving on the way back.
And that's the way it was for the first 6-7 seasons together. But here's the pure Bruce move. After my daughter was born and along with my son I had two young kids at home, he must have noticed me being a little more tired then usual. So the last few years he hasn't asked me to drive. He's let me catch a few winks in his van on the way back home.
Sure enough, when I finally got a chance to speak with Bruce at the hospital Sunday evening, he was upbeat, or as upbeat as he could be under the circumstances. I got the impression he was trying to lift my spirits. The one thing Bruce has told me over the years is, that because he's confined to his scooter, he has never had the chance to skate and play the game of hockey that he loves so much. If he ever does gets ticked off at a player it is because he feels they are "dogging it" or giving less then 100 percent, but he'll never mention that on a broadcast. He just doesn't understand how an able-bodied person wouldn't give it their all at every opportunity when he'd do just about anything to have the chance to give it his all just once. What you have to know is, this is a guy who climbs down out of his scooter and pulls himself up a flight of stairs by his hands and elbows just to get to our broadcast locations down in Portland, then usually laughs about it when he gets to the top.